NewsCrime Desk

Republican inmates including RIRA boss begin dirty protest over gluten-free diet

Protest: Michael McKevitt
Protest: Michael McKevitt

A number of high-profile prisoners including RIRA boss Michael McKevitt have began a protest behind bars over the nature of the bread and other foods they are being served.

According to a report in the Irish Daily Star, more than two dozen republican inmates at the country's top security prison are staging an in-cell protest at the lack of gluten-free bread.

Sources say the prisoners at Portlaoise Prison have begun stockpiling rubbish in their cells in protest at the bread on offer at the jail. 

The inmates, inlcuding a man jailed earlier this year for the murder of crime boss Eamonn Kelly, claim they were promised gluten, or wheat, free food by management at the prison weeks ago. 

So indignant are the prisoners that they are beginning a so-called 'dirty protest'. 

Sources told the Star the inmates are refusing to clear rubbish from their cells and officials at the prison are anticipating a 'dirty protest'. The last 'dirty protest' that occurred in Ireland was in the 1980s, and involved IRA and INLA inmates smearing excrement on the walls of their cells. They were protesting having to wear prison uniforms. 

Sources said management at the prison aren't anticipating such things to happen in Portlaoise but believe the prisoners will happily live their own rubbish. 

"They have been stockpiling rubbish for the last week in preparation for some form of dirty protest. It's over a gluten-free diet they were promised."

Prisoners in E landing, which include Michael McKevitt, Seamus McGrane and Sean Connolly, are believed to be involved in the protest. 

Connolly, of Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell, Dublin, pleaded guilty to the murder of Eamonn Kelly earlier this year. The crime boss was shot four times after returning from a bookmakers in north Dublin. 

The tattooed thug has a long history of involvement in dissident activity and was a close pal of slain RIRA boss Alan Ryan.

McKevitt, the one time leader of the Real IRA, is serving a 20 year sentence for directing terrorism. 

With the normal one-quarter remission generally afforded to prisoners, McKevitt is due for release from Portlaoise Prison in July 2016. Despite being disciplined twice in 2001 and 2004, McKevitt claimed his conduct has been good and that his postive influence on the E2 prisoners categorised him as having “enhanced” status within the prison, the judgment stated.

Earlier this week Cogus - a group set up to campaign for republican prisoners north and south of the border - issued a statement highlighted food as one of the prisoners' main complaints. However, the statement made no mention about a gluten free bread.

"The food has seriously deteriorated over the last number of months and in general is sub-standard, at times unfit for human consumption, comprising of basic small portions which are totally inadequate," the statement said.

"This has resulted in men having to purchase food with the little money they have through the prison shop which charges extortionate prices. Numerous attempts have been made by the prisoners to resolve this issue but to no avail."